Thursday, July 30, 2009

Pilot Control

These are not the greatest quality shots but here's a pilot whale (aka, pothead whale) grocery hunting for caplin. The competition can only look on from above.

About 80 feet or less from shore
It was a good decision not to shoot from here.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

I know what you did last summer

  This show was predictable, not scary, was slow to start this July, and the main characters were familiar, though no big stars. Actually people are saying that the caplin this year are noticeably smaller than normal. Most caught, and washed up on the beach were from 4-6 inches long. Hmmm, that could be scary.. In any event, the annual rolling of the caplin drew crowds to the tight and narrow winding roads around Middle Cove. The big stars of the show were no-shows, however, they still may make surprise appearances as the humpbacks of, well, just humpback whales. They chase the tasty silver morsels to coves like this for the ambush and feast upon their free range protein, and to keep their circulation healthy, fish oil.

Monday, July 27, 2009

European politicians are breathtakingly hypocritical about sealskins

In light of the EU seal product ban, this is worth a read. From the Economist, this article points out that the seals that die mercifully in the east coast harvest is near nothing compared to the millions of minks, foxes and sheep that meet a painful fate each year in Europe, yes Europe... Now imagine that! .. Here's the article:

ROUGHLY handled, and incompetently stunned, terrified animals may awaken several times before they are slaughtered. Some have their throats slit fully conscious. Europe’s industrial farms dispatch 1m sheep, cattle and pigs every day. You cannot cater to the welfare of a large animal like a pig when the line must kill five in a minute.

If the European Parliament were really interested in animal welfare, then it might look rather more closely at the farming industry that the European Union so lavishly rewards with subsidies. But it has more pressing business. On May 5th MEPs, suddenly disgusted by the cruelty of people far away hunting seals, voted to endorse a ban on the trade of seal products, most of which come from Canada. Their hypocritical recommendation, which still has to be approved by the European Commission and Council, isn’t even much good for the seals.

Bash it on the head, quick
Every year, 300,000 seals meet their end not by mauling from a polar bear, but instantaneously from gunshot or a blow from a club. Four years ago the WWF, an environmental organisation, commissioned an independent vet’s report which concluded that seal clubbing is not cruel if it is properly done by competent and trained professionals. The report judged that the Canadian hunt was professional and highly regulated. And the vets said that popular horror of the seal hunt seemed to be based largely on emotion and on images that are difficult even for experienced observers to interpret.

By the grim standards of Europe’s farrowing sheds, millions of seals enjoy a blissful life fishing and breeding on the Canadian ice. At least Canadian seals have the luxury of being stunned before they die. Compassion in World Farming, a lobby group, says that half the sheep killed in France are conscious when their throats are slit. Such treatment is possible through a loophole that allows for religious slaughter—a loophole that the same champions of animal welfare in the European Parliament voted to avoid closing on May 7th.

A few seals are killed to protect fish, others as a source of blubber or food. Most are indeed killed for their fur. That may not be to everyone’s taste, but it is hardly unEuropean. Europe’s fur farms produce over 30m mink and fox pelts a year. Every four or five days Europe kills more animals for their fur than the entire annual Canadian hunt does in a year. Seal hunting sounds unfair; but Europeans are reluctant to ban the hunting of similarly defenceless game birds, deer or wild boar.

A ban on the seal hunt would spare individual seals, but it may not do much for the seal population as a whole. When wildlife cannot be traded, it loses its value and thus the incentive for people to conserve it. Today the hunters exploiting the seals have an excellent reason to maintain a healthy and growing population. A trade ban would mean that the management or maintenance of a wild population becomes just another drain on resources. Sometimes ecotourism pays the bills, but it works only in places that are easy for tourists to get to.

Why did the European Parliament overlook all this? Seal-murdering foreigners are a soft target and animal-welfare groups have been lobbying MEPs for years. It may not be a coincidence that they finally voted for a ban just a month before they face elections. Having been invisible to their constituents for the past five years, what better way for MEPs to save their own skins than to fight valiantly for those of baby seals?

Friday, July 24, 2009

Thumbs up to Nain for its Plastic Disdain

Yes, Nain, pop. around 1200, way up near the tip of Labrador, has voted to ban plastic bags. Way to go Nainites! It's a positive move that reflects well on this community, and is an example to other Newfoundland and Labrador communities, towns, and cities, in not just helping protect the environment in which we live, but showing that society is full of needless waste, that is paradoxically what drives the economy.

July 24 - This date in history

Famous Birdays:
1982 Anna Paquin (actress)
1970 Jennifer Lopez (singer, actress)
1964 Barry Bonds (baseball homerun king)
1951 Lynda Carter Phoenix Az, Miss USA/actress (Wonder Woman, Billie Jo)
1949 Michael Richards (Kramer - actor)
1936 Ruth Buzzi Westerly RI, comedienne (Laugh-In, Margie-That Girl)
1934 Rudy Collins (drummer)
1921 Billy Taylor (jazz pianist, music director)

1802 Alexandre Dumas PŠre France, author (3 Musketeers)
1898 Amelia Earhart

1862 Martin Van Buren 8th pres, dies in Kinderhook NY
1980 Peter Sellers, British comedian, dies at 54

On this day:
1651 Anthony Johnson, a free black, receives grant of 250 acres in Va
1673 Edmund Halley (Halley's Comet) enters Queen's College, Oxford, as an undergraduate
1948 Soviets blockades Berlin from the west
1963 Sonny Liston KOs Floyd Patterson to retain heavyweight championship
1965 Bob Dylan release "Like a Rolling Stone"
1965 Casey Stengel resigns as manager of the NY Mets
1967 Beatles sign a petition in The Times to legalize marijuana
1967 Charles de Gaulle says 'Vive le Qu‚bec libre! Long live free Quebec!'
1967 Race riot in Cambridge Maryland
1969 Apollo 11 returns to Earth
1969 Muhammad Ali is convicted for refusing induction in US Army on appeal
1974 Supreme Court unanimously rules Nixon must turn over Watergate tapes
1975 Apollo 18 returns to Earth
Montreal Quebec - Federal party leaders Ed Broadbent, Brian Mulroney & John Turner meet in the first French-language television debate.

Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Morning North America

Driving about a km from North America's most easterly point very early in the morning, your optic nerve fires this view across the retina. About 15 or so minutes from St. John's, the road seems long, is rolling, and winding. At the bottom of this hill you will be very close to the ocean, and can safely view a very animated sea pound the shores.

Friday, July 17, 2009

Come Near St. John's Streets at Your Peril

What's the Difference Between St. John's city council and city streets?
Ans.: There's now some civility in St. John's city council.

Wow, I almost saw someone get killed tonight. Waiting with others at a red light on Stavanger Dr., the four lane Torbay Rd. dragstrip's light was changing to amber. With windows up, an accelerating, heavy sounding motor, possibly an 8 cylinder, was getting closer and louder as the amber light paused for an expected exchange to red. As the cars in front of our lane began to venture out to the Torbay Rd. dragstrip, a dark yellow Mustang with it's impressive sounding engine still being torqued, blasted through the red light, just a few feet away from its near victim. There could very well have been a pedestrian ready to walk across also.

Lucky drivers, both the racer and the one waiting for the green light. Preceding the yellow Mustang were three or four others who no doubt were on their way to an emergency, also. That's it, just like every other minute and hour of every day, there are many urgent things that rationalizes the absense of road sense, civility, safety, and courtesy. Perhaps there is a third world war that some people have heard about, or a Nostradamus end of the world prediction that is causing Michael Schumacher syndrome on city streets. Whatever it is, the probability of someone getting killed or very seriously injured as a result of reckless driving has increased, particularly in the last two years.

There is a real opportunity here for lots of profits from issued speeding or reckless driving tickets .. if that will motivate law enforcement to crack down.

The police surely have plenty to keep them busy but this is a safety issue and more attention has to be directed into deterring reckless drivers from hurting others or themselves - drunk drivers are not the only ones endangering lives.

It's just amazing to drive around the place - there is a sense of urgency, aggression, impatience, and just rudeness. Sorry to say, but this is how it is, and does not have to be. A sign of the busy economic times in these parts? Perhaps. It may very well be that people get accustomed to driving a certain way and are not aware of their habits. Whatever, it needs to change.

A final word of advice, never take a green light for granted. For some people, a red light means "Go, Faster!"

It's good to see a couple of civilized candidates running for major in the city. If they can translate civility to city streets, they will get this vote when re-election times comes up. Each year the city does try to improve roads, and this year the road crews have their hands and shovels full. The streets of St. John's have been nightmarish to meander around. It's been like driving over a dirt road but with potholes having serrated edges, and at night, like a minefield of ruts, holes, and tire ripping speed bumps. You would think that people would be concerned to protect their precious trucks, cars, suvs or whatever, but no, speed and power win out.

Note: Obviously reckless, inconsiderate driving is not exclusive to St. John's, and exists everywhere. It's just the place with the busiest streets, and which has a high chance of accidents happening, insurance rates and blood pressure rising. This is a also a quality of life issue. The world is not ending tomorrow and Christmas is five months away. If it's a real emergency, indicate it, if not, slow down.

Monday, July 13, 2009

On the Beaten Path - Blackhead

On the way to Cape Spear it is easy to pass by the very tiny village of Blackhead. You see it from the roadway, just a few hundred away. There's plenty to do if you like to hike or photograph. The seaside scenery is savagely wild some days as an Atlantic Ocean vents its pent up energy that's been brewing thousands of miles ago. This day there was hardly a breeze, yet the Atlantic current put on an unwavering show of power as its watery turbines continued its work to smooth the chiseled eastern crust.
Blackhead is on the beaten path of the East Coast Trail as well. You can safely take dramatic photos from the trail, and especially if you have a zoom lens. Also from a safe distance you will likely be able to hear thunderous echos of eternal ocean smashing a tough armour of cliff.
Unstoppable power!

Friday, July 10, 2009

Modern Development & Progress

Walking around the historic part of Southlands, St. John's (goes back around 10 years, pretty sure it was before Windows XP came out), and into the new phase development, you notice what is typical of new home constructions and neighbourhoods. The homes are pretty roomy these days and packed densely.
Perhaps the sense of community is very high, because homes are so close that you can pass the potatos to your neighbour from one dining room window to another.

Another thing you will have noticed, and this has been going on for, well only the Big Guy or Gal knows, is that virtually every living growing thing has been obliterated from sight. It was pulled, hauled, scraped or burnt to make way for modern living and to get rid of any sign of a natural evergreen, that though free - through its natural growth, is not considered valuable. The replacement trees will come from a commercial establishment. Now, that's progress!

It appears development plans don't call for natural evergreens to be on lawns. It's certainly possible to leave them alone, and save the homebuyer some time, energy and coin. But then again, what kind of message would that send to people? "Not supporting the economy!"; "Can't afford farmed trees?" Well the message it sends to business is "Tree sales are going to grow! People have decided to start over." That's the way developers want it to be - rootless.

Oh yeah, getting back to the near conjoined houses. What gives with the property sizes? Many lots are so small, that if you wanted to play mini-golf, you'd be trespassing. How about snow in that short stint of winter! How many stories are people supposed to pile it before the inevitable avalanche buries the neighbour's and your driveways? But it's silly to mock progress. In fact, progress can be funny. Read the sign on this tree. Crack you up wouldn't it!

Monday, July 06, 2009

2 Parks Lose Wold Heritage Status, Gros Morne Park Could also be in Danger

You've heard that power lines are dangerous, and it can be doubly true for Gros Morne National Park. That is, if massive towers, heavy cables, and its permanent presence become a fixture on the landscape. The added danger is in the park becoming less attractive, less of a tourist draw, and possibly losing it's coveted status as a World Heritage Site.

In February, this was newsworthy, and it was noted here that the Mid-East nation of Oman had it's Oryx Sanctuary Park's status diminished when UNESCO did not look kindly upon the size of the park being reduced. Very recently Germany's Dresden Elbe Valley got demoted after a four lane highway was carved through that park.

So if there are to be huge gangly steel transmission towers carrying juice from Labrador to the island, does it really have to go through Gros Morne Park, just to save a few dollars? Once these things are in place, it's permanent, and so might the park's new status be as just a park, rather than a World Heritage Site. That would be a step backward, not forward - and a loss for the province.

Thursday, July 02, 2009

Belated Happy Canada Day

This fireworks shot was a first attempt so not too spectacular. There was low cloud cover, but I'm sure I can do better. If anyone has any pointers for future fireworks camera preparation please share.